Historic Designation

The Kress Building

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Photo Credit: Sarasota History Alive
Location: 1442 Main Street, Sarasota , FL

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Sarasota History - The Kress Building photo

During the summer of 1932 construction was begun on the three-story, concrete and steel frame structure with Art Deco Style buff tile and glazed terra-cotta entrance facade located at 1442 Main Street. The Kress building is representative of the fourth phase of development of Sarasota (1930-1935) and part of the significance lies in the creation of construction jobs afforded by the erection of the Sarasota retail branch of the national company, S.H. Kress. After the local collapse of land prices and the national Depression, the arrival of a national corporation was heralded in the Sarasota press. Although the site was purchased in November 1929, local contracts were not signed until the summer of 1932. The general contract was awarded to G.A. Miller, Inc. of Tampa. G.A. Miller had constructed twenty Kress stores for the company, ranging in location from St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, Ybor City, Fort Myers and Daytona Beach, Florida to North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama as well as Spokane, Washington and Billings, Montana.

G.A. Miller, Inc. also was involved with the erection of the Edwards Theater (now the Sarasota Opera House), the original Sarasota Herald building (now the Woman's Exchange), and the Mira Mar hotel (demolished in 1982). It was stressed in the press coverage that only the general superintendent and the timekeeper would be brought in from Tampa - it was originally estimated that one hundred local construction jobs would be created. By November, it was estimated that sixty-five local men "...were working on the building giving support to about 325 people based on five persons to the average family."

The original cost estimate of $40,000 rose to $50,000 and represented the bulk of the total of $55,061 in building permits authorized during the first six months of 1932.

The Art Deco Style building was described as follows: "The new building clearly defines the modern trend in architecture and stands out on Main Street like a magnificent temple, extending a warm welcome to all." The wrap-around shop front ground floor display windows and the preponderance of ornamental terra-cotta in the Mayoid vocabulary, the subtle north-facade punctuated by bays of vertical fenestrated strips and the exotic Egyptoid interior with its locus capitalled columns and pilasters are primary features of high-style Art Deco exhibited at the store. Pride in craftsmanship is displayed, but pride in company is predominant - the Kress insignia appears at the terrazzo threshold of the ground floor entrance, at regular intervals at the frieze of the projecting aluminum marquee which protected the merchandise and the window shoppers, and the Kress masthead appears in gold glazed tile letters at the pediment level.

The store was opened for inspection on the 30th of November, 1932; it was estimated that 8,000 people walked through the building that day. The following morning the store was opened for business, "...bringing to the community a unit of a nationwide system of stores featuring merchandise in the lower price range." The Sarasota branch was the 232nd store opened in the Kress system. Although 1442 Main Street is no longer a Kress retail outlet, the prominent downtown location, square footage and massive interior spaces, including the twenty-foot ceiling ground floor, made this building a prime candidate for re-use. There are few examples of the Art Deco style in Sarasota, particularly of the scale, material and design quality as the Kress store.

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